- Brett Pauly
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Super swine answer to Hogzilla shot in northeast Georgia
"It's one heck of a hog."
What else can you say when a 9-foot-long boar tilting the scales to some 1,100 comes tearing through yards and spreading concern through neighborhoods?
That had been the case in recent years in Fayette County in northeast Georgia. And it apparently wasn't just one gigantic pig on the warpath, but as many as four that roamed free for years here, residents speculate.
Well, rumor become fact this week when local resident and hunter William Coursey apparently shot an 1,100-pound bruiser boar in a neighbor's yard.
After hauling it to a truck weight station for the official tally, Coursey hung the beast snout down in his front yard, according to the Associated Press.
"Nobody keeps official records," said Daryl Kirby, an editor with Georgia Outdoor News. "But it's one heck of a hog."
A lack of record keeping might be a bummer for Coursey, whose family, according to an online story by Atlanta's WSB-TV, believes the hefty hog may be the biggest ever, based on statistics they say they found in a local hunting magazine.
However, it might be tougher to find hunting records for breeder boars that got loose from a far down the road. According to a report aired Friday evening by WSB-TV, that appears to be just what happened.
Super swine are not altogether uncommon in Georgia; many are large feral pigs, suggesting they have escaped from domestication and become wild. A team of National Geographic experts confirmed in March 2005 a behemoth boar that had been dubbed "Hogzilla" and gained urban-legend status had existed. The research crew exhumed the remains of a hog that had been killed and buried on a farm the previous summer.
At 800 pounds and measuring 7½ to 8 feet, the animal fell short of its original billing by 200 pounds and more than four feet in length. Yet the tusks of Hogzilla one taping to just short of 18 inches and the other nearly 16 inches set a Safari Club International North American free-range record.
No word, yet, on whether the distance from a farm down the road to the Courseys' neighborhood will count as free range.
Our thanks to the Backcasts blog tipster who signed on as Bruce Williamson of Marietta, Ga., for turning us on to the story. And at least one other mailbag contributor has some chose words to say about the matter. If you have a news tip, please pass it along for consideration.
Maybe new year's wishes do come true
I'm starting to really like this idea I had for making new year's wishes instead of resolutions.
Just the other day I wrote that I hoped for more incredible survival stories that we all can take heart from and, there, on Page A6 of the Seattle Times, I spy a wire story titled, "Fishermen found after 5 weeks adrift."
It was a diet of tuna and sea turtles that sustained the five Costa Rican fishermen, all of them teens save one, after mechanical difficulties a few days out of their home port of Playas del Coco left them helpless on their 37-foot vessel. They had departed Costa Rica in mid-November and were rescued by a Polish-flagged merchant ship this week off the coast of El Salvador, according to the wire story.
The happy ending reminds us of the incredible 2006 odyssey of the three Mexican fishermen who were rescued after claiming to have spent nine months and nine days adrift in the Pacific.
In a related story that made a much larger media splash as it gained momentum late this week and eventually landed on national front pages, a California sailor was rescued at sea by a Chilean fishing trawler some 500 miles off Cape Horn on the southern tip of South America.
Before his 44-foot steel-hulled ketch was whipped in a storm, Ken Barnes was attempting to become the first American to solo circumnavigate the globe from the West Coast. He began his adventure Oct. 28 in Long Beach, Calif., and was picked up Friday.
Welcome to the debut of Backcasts, our new blog here at ESPNOutdoors.com.
I'll be your captain through the wild and wonderful world that is our sporting outdoors.
We'll attempt to share with you not only news of the day, but a decidedly different view on the events and influences that shape hunting, fishing and all things outdoors.
In upcoming entries, for example, we'll touch on global warming, our wish list for 2007 and even some controversy brewing over, of all things, carp.
We want to make this a user-friendly site that strives to involve reader feedback, and we'll start out with a photo for which we need caption assistance.
So please bookmark this site as your destination for a unique take on the outdoors.
Wishful thinking for the new year
Some folks have resolutions they make when the new year rolls around. It's an old tradition, I suppose, and one that probably soothes the psyche more than it is practical medicine. My resolutions never seem to last much longer than February.
So this year I'm creating a wish list for the new year here at Backcasts.
As a journalist, I'm selfish; I want grist for the mill that is my keyboard, and that means plenty of interesting, important and unusual developments to write about. So indulge me for a few moments while I compile a list full of hope and optimism and more than a little levity.
In 2007, I wish for:
A 25-pound bass that counts!
Be it bedfishing, robbing the cradle, side hooked, bottom hooked, top hooked or noodled, just make sure to throw that behemoth on ice and put the record to bed, finally.
Those admirable anglers in southern California foul hooked a 25.1-pound mother bass in Lake Dixon back in March that would have shattered the fabled, 75-year-old record of 22¼ pounds had their consciences not gotten the better of them and they decided not to release the beast.
I'm all for clean consciences, but if you net a fish that weighs more than 22.25 pounds, keep it and make it official on a certified scale. That would be my strategy; but considering my lifetime-best black bass is 4 pounds, I don't think you record hunters have much to worry about.
If France can reintroduce brown bears, why not California?
You want a media blitz? Propose that idea. Heck, the grizzly is on the Golden State flag as a badge of vitality and strength, after all even though the last resident griz was shot in the 1920s.
Hey, only four have been planted in France in recent years, with the 194-pound Balou the latest, let go in the Pyrenees. How about it?
It wouldn't be so bad to let even just four brown bears free in the high Sierra, or would it?
Come to think of it, French farmers were up in arms over the proposed release of the grizzlies, so we'd expect nothing less in Cali.
Talk about wishful thinking, but how about fewer hunting controversies?
It goes counter to my hopes for stuff to write about, but it seems that hunters sometimes shoot themselves in the foot in terms of media attention.
The prime example is the World Hunting Association.
What will the competitive "hunting" crowd think of next, the World Deer Wrestling Federation?
When at first we learned about it (I refuse to refer to the group by name now), I thought it was a woeful idea and a slap in the face of legitimate hunting. The proposal to track whitetail deer and subdue them with tranquilizer darts to earn points for the biggest racks was lame. I was then further sickened to learn it actually was happening.
How about fewer road-rage incidents involving bowhunters? I can think of only one, but it was a doozy, and one is too many. That's when in October an incensed Arkansas man allegedly loosed a crossbow arrow at a vehicle.
More recently in Florida a hunter with rattling antlers in his rig used the whitetail headgear to strike another motorist's vehicle.
Perhaps you recall the unbelievable story of millionaire gunmen in Quebec stalking moose by helicopter until the animals are practically hypnotized by noise and wind, becoming sitting ducks. That's poaching of the worst kind, and we don't need that or poaching of any kind.
And, to save perhaps the best (read: worst) for last, there was the vice president's hunting accident. Speaking of which
Two more years of Dick Cheney
Maybe this year the vice president's quail-hunting partners will wish instead to target DUCK!
Another wild rut
If there ever was a season for whitetails gone wild, it was the rut
For example, did you hear the one about the whitetail that attacked a ceramic deer lawn ornament in Wisconsin? Hey, what can you expect from a sex-starved buck that takes out its aggressions on other males when pursuing does?
Unfortunately, there were some serious injuries to people and damage to homes during the craziness, so perhaps these great ruminants can tone it down a bit in 2007, OK?
Many and varied new uses for fishing line
Anything to do with modified and productive alternative applications for monofilament line is all right by me.
I was encouraged to learn Orthodox Jews in California who attend a synagogue on Venice Beach's boardwalk had designs on using a strand of fishing line several miles long to create a symbolic religious enclosure called an eruv.
However, their plans got as tangled as a bird's-nest snarl as beachfront residents and state environmentalists argued the string might snag birds and spoil the ocean view.
Stories of survival
Our hearts certainly go out to the victims of exposure, including those from the recent high-profile tragedies in Oregon.
But we can take heart in remarkable tales of survival, strength and resolve.
None was more remarkable than that of the three Mexican fishermen who were rescued after claiming to have spent nine months and nine days adrift after mechanical problems and adverse winds quickly pushed their 27-foot boat out to sea from their original shark-fishing waters off the coastal town San Blas some 400 miles northwest of Mexico City.
You have no doubt heard all the old animal adages, right?
Partridge in a pear tree. Canary in a coal mine. Moose in a swing set.
Indeed, in this shot, Don Valliere, a maintenance man for New Hampshire's Berlin Police Department, balances himself as he uses bolt cutters to free a moose that got tangled up in swing set in Milan, N.H.
Now we'd like to hear what you think is the best way to describe the image.
Use the mailbag form below to suggest your best caption for this photo. Have some fun and let's see what we come up with.
We'll consider posting the best submissions on the blog and more in the mailbag.
Name: (City and State):
Hit us with your best caption for the moose and swing set shot:
We'll occasionally throw in a funky photo on the blog and ask for a caption assistance. This image is from our Best of 2006 folder. Hats off to Berlin Police Lt. Jean LeBlanc for snapping this image in March. And if you ever have an unusual shot you would like to share on the blog, submit it and type "Write a caption" in the subject line.
Here are a few of the first responders:
Bill (Jena, La.): This catch and release moose hunting is not go to catch on!
Pat (Martinsburg, W.Va.): Last time: This is not a necklace!
Jason (Madison, Wis.): I'm gone for five minutes, and you get yourself in this mess?
Jim Harrison (College Station, Texas): Doris, the grandbaby got caught in the swing set again!!
Craig Huxta (Monument, Colo.): Moose on a noose
Bill (Chicopee, Mass.): This is not as fun as it was when I was younger.
About the author: Brett Pauly spent nearly six years editing and publishing ESPNOutdoors.com before moving on to produce the ESPN.com Sports Travel site.
He is a national award-winning writer and editor with 14 years of experience in the newspaper trade. The Evergreen State of Washington is where he makes his home. Click here to email him.
Indulge us for a slightly skewed view of the world of outdoor sports